Research & Education

Radiotherapy’s role in malignant airway obstruction

Latest in November issue of Journal of Thoracic Oncology
October 30, 2013

Contact: Kristal Griffith

IASLC Director of Communications

(720) 325-2952

Release: Oct. 30, 2013


Radiotherapy’s role in malignant airway obstruction

Latest in November issue of Journal of Thoracic Oncology


DENVER – Malignant airway obstruction is a common cause of ICU admission, often because of lung cancers, lymphoma or other thoracic malignancies. Severe cases are life threatening, and although therapeutic bronchoscopic intervention may assist in restoring airway patency and facilitating extubation, many patients are ineligible for such intervention. For patients requiring intubation and mechanical ventilation because of malignant airway obstruction, the efficacy of radiotherapy for achieving extubation is unknown. Although external beam radiotherapy is a cornerstone of treatment for lung cancer, the use of it in intubated patients is uncertain.

            Researchers from Western University in Ontario performed a 10-year retrospective review of ICU patients treated with radiotherapy while on mechanical ventilation.   Their findings are published in the November issue of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer’s journal, the Journal of Thoracic Oncology (JTO).

            The scientists found a significant minority of patients receiving radiotherapy were successfully extubated. Higher radiation doses were predictive of improved overall survival and showed a trend for increased extubation success.

            The authors say, “the risks associated with patient transportation, the costs of prolonging the ICU stay, and a potential delay in transition to end-of-life care must be balanced against the potential for radiotherapy to facilitate extubation success, prolong survival, and potentially allow for further cancer treatment. The authors would like to emphasize the value of referring patients with this clinical presentation to a Radiation Oncology specialist, especially those ineligible for bronchoscopic intervention, so that radiotherapy may be considered by the multidisciplinary team, patients, and their families.”

The lead authors of the study are Drs. Alexander Louie and George Rodrigues.



About the IASLC:

The International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) is the only global organization dedicated to the study of lung cancer. Founded in 1974, the association’s membership includes more than 3,500 lung cancer specialists in 80 countries. To learn more about IASLC please visit